“Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armor on to be able to resist the devil’s tactics” (Eph 6: 10, 11)
Human being in every stage and status of life is easily prone to growing negative tendencies of social, political, cultural and moral life. Love and unity in family life is inclined to getting shattered under the pressure of the postmodern culture.While children and adolescents get attracted to different games like Ouija Board, Blue Whale etc.youth are disposed to drugs, sex, media, blue films, black mass, etc.These negative trends or evil powerscreep into the lives of people in a very subtle way and not only are they difficult to discern in life situations,but they also deprive them of a happy living and disorient them from using their will and intention in building a just and peaceful future.They take control of young and old alike and work explicitly on human souls.
St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph6: 10-18) says that it is not against the human enemies that we must fight, but against the sovereignties and the powers of darkness, the wiles of the devils. He has suggested wearing a whole armor of God especially for the protection from the evil powers. He added, only then we can stand firm in the presence of God. The armor he meant is a life of truthfulness, righteousness, deep faith, guided by the word of God and constant prayer in spirit.
Saint Mariam Thresia is one among the few who wore the whole armor of God continuously and fought against the wiles of the evil powers and succeeded gloriously and today stand firm in the presence of God. The classical mystical writers like St John of the Cross and St Therese of Avila have mentioned in their writings of the dreadful, terrible and fierce torments of the evil spirit on those who are in contemplative stage. God permits the soul to be incited by evil spirit to give it an occasion for acquiring greater merits. As in the case of Job (Job 1: 2), the devils got permission from the Lord to torment St Mariam Thresia in a variety of ways as she grew into a higher spiritual realm. Venerable Fr Joseph Vithayathil, spiritual father of Mariam Thresia has reported in detail in his diary with dates how she was tormented by the dark powers. Even Mariam Thresia herself has mentioned about this in her autobiography.
The evil spirits attack the souls in three ways: temptation, obsession and possession. Devils concentrated their power on Mariam Thresia through temptation and obsession than by possession. In the diabolic possession devils invade and manipulate the body by residing within the body and operate it and treat it as their own property. Ordinarily possession occurs only in sinners and precisely as a punishment for sin. Obsession usually occurs in the souls that are far advanced in virtue. In the obsession, devils act upon all the exterior and interior senses of the soul in a series of unusually violent and persistent temptation. Upon the sense of sight, by appearing sometimes under repulsive forms to frighten the souls and thus turn them away from the practice of virtues; upon the sense of hearing, by causing blasphemous or obscene words like ‘God has abandoned you’ to be heard; upon the sense of touch by blows and wounds or by embraces to tempt them to sin; upon the sense of smell by causing temptation by pleasant odours or an unbearable stench; upon the sense of taste by arousing feelings of gluttony or by mixing repulsive objects with the food so that it is impossible to swallow or digest.
Mariam Thresia had to face terrible temptations and obsessions against faith, hope, charity and strong suggestions against purity accompanied by phantasy in the imaginations. Mariam Thresia herself has recorded the intensity of the torture in the autobiography: “The devils tortured me very much. They knocked down things from my hands and threw stones at me on the road. They even cut off my hand and put it aside. With the help of Blessed Mother, it was reattached, and the wound was healed….They would bind my hands and legs tightly with rope, beat me all over my body, smash me with their fists, rub my eyes with chilly powder, and abuse me while saying prayers, snatch away the rosary, throw rubbish into the food and show me things against chastity” (Autobiography section D) Any soul which is attacked in this manner cannot be freed by itself.
Theologian Jordan Aumann says that beside the suffering soul, there will be Mother Mary and the guardian angel, whose power is greater than that of the devil, to help the soul. Whenever Mariam Thresia was severely tormented, she was freed from them by the assistance of Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Family and the angels or by the prayer of exorcism done by Ven. Fr Joseph Vithayathil. While she was terribly assaulted, she would continue to do severe penance, fasting and prayer. The insistence of the devils on tormenting again and again is one of the best proofs that she had not succumbed to the temptations. Mariam Thresia wore whole armor of God living all the virtues in a heroic way. As St Paul says, she buckled truth round her waist, used integrity for a breast plate, proclamation of the gospel of peace through family apostolate for shoes, carried always shield of faith, and never tired of prayer and penance but always having the word of God in her heart as the sword she fought against the army of devils and succeeded gloriously.
Ven. Fr Joseph Vithayathil has recorded in the Diary that as a reward of her victory against dark powers, Mother Mary gave her name ‘Mariam’, which means Mary, added to the name of Thresia. Then onwards she was known as Mariam Thresia. St John of the Cross has explained of the strength of a perfect soul in his book, ‘Spiritual Canticle’. He says that devils become greatly frightened upon seeing a soul so exalted, courageous, and bold with the perfect virtues and it has an extraordinary fear of the perfect soul. There are evidences mentioned in the Diary that Mariam Thresia also got authority over devils to cast them out. Once she saw devils in the church and ordered them to leave the church. Then they asked her back: “Who gave you the authority to drive us away” and came to attack her. But she fearlessly commanded them and sent them out. She has recorded in the autobiography too, how she courageously acted on them: “Whenever I went to help the sick, the devil used to abuse me and threaten me with a club. Without any fear I would remain there and continue to help them.”
Let us be proud of Saint Mariam Thresia, a simple village woman, who was adorned with all the armor of God. Let her courageous and inspiring life be a model and an inspiration to wear the armor of God to fight against the dark powers which attack us daily in an invisible manner.
Aumann, Jordan. Spiritual Theology, London: Sheed and Ward, 1980.
John of the Cross. The collected Works of St John of the Cross, trans.& ed. by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, Bangalore: AVP Publications, 1981.
Thresia, M. The Writings of Mother Mariam Thresia, A.M. Mundaden (ed.), Mannuthy: Holy Family Generalate, 1994.
Vithayathil, J. Fr Vithayathil’s Diary, Mannuthy: Holy Family Publications, 2008.
Sr Dr Ruby Therese CHF